6 signs that an Android phone has a virus and 5 ways to remove it
- You can clean your Android phone of viruses and malware by deleting malware in safe mode, clearing the cache or performing a factory reset.
- Although there are no real computer viruses that can infect your Android phone, there are plenty of other malware.
- Signs of malware include pop-up ads, unexplained apps, frequent crashes, and reduced battery life.
Just because your phone isn’t running a full desktop operating system doesn’t mean it can’t be infected with devastating malware. In fact, your Android phone is vulnerable to several types of malware, so it’s a good idea to be familiar with the warning signs—and know what to do to remove malware from your phone. Here are the most common signs of infection and what to do about it.
Signs that your Android device has a virus
First, the good news: There are currently no Android viruses, and it’s unlikely that your phone will be infected with a real computer virus anytime soon. But a virus is a very specific type of malware, and there are other types of malware that can infect your phone, including adware, ransomware, scareware, spyware, and Trojans.
Nevertheless, most people still only refer to malware as a virus. With that in mind, watch out for these signs your Android device has some kind of malware.
Your contacts are receiving spam from your accounts
If friends, family and colleagues report receiving spam messages, there are a few possibilities – most of them not good news. Your phone may have malware that has hijacked your email accounts, for example, or your email account itself may be hacked. However, if you hear from multiple people that something unusual is happening to your email, you should consider malware.
You see a lot of pop-up ads
Adware is, as the name suggests, a type of malicious software designed to display lots of advertisements. Most adware is not subtle, so you may notice a dramatic increase in the number of pop-ups (usually when running Chrome) after being infected. Even worse, some adware is also scareware – the messages you see will warn that you’re infected with malware or your phone is otherwise malfunctioning, and offer to fix it for a fee.
You notice unknown apps on your phone
Even if you have many apps on your phones, you are probably familiar with most of the ones you see on your home screen. If you see new app icons that you don’t recognize, it could mean that malware has installed apps without your permission.
The battery drains much faster than usual
Malware can drain your battery quickly for a number of reasons, including the fact that it can do a lot of online activity, and it’s poorly designed with no regard for conserving your phone’s battery or processor. As a result, a similar sign of malware is if your phone tends to heat up even when you’re not doing processor-intensive tasks.
You notice that your phone is suddenly using a lot more data
Likewise, malware can cause your phone to upload and download a lot of data in the background, which can cause your data usage to spike unexpectedly. Keep an eye on your data usage, and if your mobile plan doesn’t offer unlimited data, look out for data limit or overage charge alerts.
Apps crash a lot
Most common apps probably don’t crash very often, so if you start seeing notifications about apps crashing frequently, suspect malware. As stated earlier, much malware is poorly designed and buggy, often suffering from incompatibilities with other mainstream apps and Android itself. The bottom line: Malware is likely to crash a lot more than legitimate apps you’re used to.
How to remove a virus from an Android device
If your phone is showing any of the symptoms of malware and you suspect you may be infected, there are a few steps you can take to clean your phone and rid it of malware.
Clear the cache
Because malware often attacks your browser, the first thing you should try is clearing your browser’s cache. This can eliminate malware in your phone’s memory. The specific steps may vary slightly depending on the phone model you own, but you should be able to find your cache settings by following these steps:
1. Start Settings app.
2. Press Apps.
3. Go to the list of apps (you may need to tap See all apps) and press Chrome (or which browser you use).
4. Press Storage and cache.
5. Press Clear cache.
6. Press Manage spacethereafter Remove all data.
Delete unknown apps in safe mode
Malware may have installed malicious software on your phone, and it may not be possible to delete these apps in the usual way. Instead, you can restart your phone in safe mode — which starts the phone with minimal apps and services, so you can delete apps before malware has a chance to launch.
The method to boot into safe mode may vary depending on your phone model, so you may need to search online to find out your phone’s exact procedure. But this should work for many models: From the lock screen, press and hold Power button until you see the exit screen appear. Press and hold Turn off button. After a moment, you should see the option to restart your phone in safe mode. Select it.
When the phone restarts in safe mode, third-party apps (including most malware) are disabled. Check for potentially unwanted apps and delete them.
Turn on Google Play Protect
Play Protect is Google’s free anti-malware app that checks your phone for the presence of malware and malware from your third-party apps. If you’re not already using Google Play Protect, you should activate it from the Google Play Store right away.
Install anti-malware software
In general, installing third-party anti-malware software on your Android phone can be considered overkill. For most people, the risk of infection is relatively low, so paying for anti-malware software may not be a good investment. However, if you are already infected or have been infected in the past, extra protection may be warranted. Some excellent options include Bitdefender Total Security and Norton Antivirus Plus.
Reset your phone to factory settings
If all else fails, a surefire way to remove malware from your phone is to factory reset it. This will remove all apps, data and settings from your phone, so use this option with caution. Start Settings app and select Reset options (you may need to navigate to System first, depending on your phone), then select Delete all data (factory reset).
After the reset, you can reinstall your apps and data from a recent backup, but if the malware was already in the backup, you’re simply re-infecting your phone. In that case, you need to reset your phone one more time and then install your favorite apps manually, without using the backup.